NEW YORK – The former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration is under federal investigation amid accusations of financial improprieties and making false statements to Congress, a newspaper reported Saturday.
The New York Times, citing attorney Barbara Van Gelder, said a grand jury has begun a criminal investigation of Lester Crawford. She declined further comment.
Van Gelder told a federal magistrate Thursday that she would instruct Crawford to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if ordered to answer questions about his actions as head of the FDA, a transcript of the hearing shows.
Crawford resigned in September, two months after the Senate confirmed him, saying it was time for someone else to lead the agency. He had been acting commissioner for more than a year.
A month before he resigned, Crawford sold more than $50,000 in shares in a company regulated by the agency, according to financial disclosure forms obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. He has since joined a Washington lobbying firm, Policy Directions Inc.
The criminal investigation was disclosed at a court hearing in a lawsuit over the FDA’s actions on emergency contraceptive pills, a subject of dispute during Crawford’s tenure.
After the pill’s maker, Barr Laboratories, applied three years ago to sell Plan B over the counter, the agency repeatedly delayed a decision on its application.
Many lawmakers, abortion rights advocates and former FDA officials said the delays had resulted from politics, but Crawford and other agency officials said their concerns were scientific and legal.
An advocacy group, the Center for Reproductive Rights, sued the agency in federal court in New York over the delays. A judge allowed the case to proceed, giving the center the right to interview top FDA officials, including Crawford.
Crawford was scheduled to be questioned under oath Thursday, but on Wednesday Van Gelder, his personal lawyer, sought a delay, saying she would instruct him to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights, the Times reported.